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Zodiac Books 


Lytton Strachey 



Chatto & Hindus 














Lytton Strachey 


Chatto and Windus 








^ I « 

Every one knows the popular conception of Florence 
Nightingale. The saintly, self-sacrificing woman, the 
delicate maiden of high degree who threw aside the pleas- 
ures of a life of ease to succour the afflicted, the Lady 
with the Lamp, gliding through the horrors of the hospital 
at Scutari, and consecrating with the radiance of her 
goodness the dying soldier's couch — the vision is familiar 
to all. But the truth was different. The Miss Nightingale 
of fact was not as facile fancy painted her. She worked 
in another fashion, and towards another end; she moved 
under the stress of an impetus which finds no place in the 
popular imagination. A Demon possessed her. Now 
demons, whatever else they may be, are full of interest. 
And so it happens that in the real Miss Nightingale there 
was more that was interesting than in the legendary one; 
there was also less that was agreeable. 

Her family was extremely well-to-do, and connected 
by marriage with a spreading circle of other well-to-do 
families. There was a large country house in Derby- 
shire; there was another in the New Forest; there were 
Mayfair rooms for the London season and all its finest 
parties; there were tours on the Continent with even more 
than the usual number of Italian operas and of glimpses 
at the celebrities of Paris. Brought up among such 



advantages, it was only natural to suppose that Florence 
would show a proper appreciation of them by doing her 
duty in that state of life unto which it had pleased God to 
call her — in other words, by marrying, after a fitting 
number of dances and dinner-parties, an eligible gentle- 
man, and living happily ever afterwards. Her sister, her 
cousins, all the young ladies of her acquaintance, were 
either getting ready to do this or had already done it. It 
was inconceivable that Florence should dream of anything 
else; yet dream she did. Ah! To do her duty in that 
state of life unto which it had pleased God to call her! 
Assuredly she would not be behindhand in doing her 
duty; but unto what state of life had it pleased God to call 
her? That was the question. God's calls are many, and 
they are strange. Unto what state of life had it pleased 
Him to call Charlotte Corday, or Elizabeth of Hungary.'' 
What was that secret voice in her ear, if it was not a call? 
Why had she felt, from her earliest years, those mysterious 
promptings towards . . . she hardly knew what, but cer- 
tainly towards something very different from anything 
around her? Why, as a child in the nursery, when her 
sister had shown a healthy pleasure in tearing her dolls to 
pieces, had she shown an almost morbid one in sewing 
them up again? Why was she driven now to minister to 
the poor in their cottages, to watch by sick-beds, to put 
her dog's wounded paw into elaborate splints as if it was 
a human being? Why was her head filled with queer 
imaginations of the country house at Embley turned, by 
some enchantment, into a hospital, with herself as matron 
moving about among the beds? Why was even her vision 
of heaven itself filled with suffering patients to whom she 
was being useful? So she dreamed and wondered, and, 


taking out her diary, she poured into it the agitations of 
her soul. And then the bell rang, and it was time to go 
and dress for dinner. 

As the years passed, a resdessness began to grow upon 
her. She was unhappy, and at last she knew it. Mrs. 
Nightingale, too, began to notice that there was some- 
thing wrong. It was very odd; what could be the matter 
with dear Flo? Mr. Nightingale suggested that a husband 
might be advisable; but the curious thing was that she 
seemed to take no interest in husbands. And with her 
attractions, and her accomplishments, too! There was 
nothing in the world to prevent her making a really brilliant 
match. But no ! She would think of nothing but how 
to satisfy that singular craving of hers to be doing some- 
thing. As if there was not plenty to do in any case, in the 
ordinary way, at home. There was the china to look 
after, and there was her father to be read to after dinner. 
Mrs. Nightingale could not understand it; and then one 
day her perplexity was changed to consternation and alarm. 
Florence announced an extreme desire to go to Salisbury 
Hospital for several months as a nurse; and she confessed 
to some visionary plan of eventually setting up in a house 
of her own in a neighbouring village, and there founding 
"something like a Protestant Sisterhood, without vows, 
for women of educated feelings." The whole scheme 
was summarily brushed aside as preposterous; and Mrs. 
Nightingale, after the first shock of terror, was able to 
setde down again more or less comfortably to her em- 
broidery. But Florence, who was now twenty-five and 
felt that the dream of her life had been shattered, came near 
to desperation. 

And, indeed, the difficulties in her path were great. For 


not only was it an almost unimaginable thing in those days 
for a woman of means to make her own way in the world 
and to live in independence, but the particular profession 
for which Florence was clearly marked out both by her 
instincts and her capacities was at that time a peculiarly 
disreputable one. A "nurse" meant then a coarse old 
woman, always ignorant, usually dirty, often brutal, a 
Mrs. Gamp, in bunched-up sordid garments, tippling at 
the brandy-bottle or indulging in worse irregularities. 
The nurses in the hospitals were especially notorious for 
immoral conduct; sobriety was almost unknown among 
them; and they could hardly be trusted to carry out the 
simplest medical duties. Certainly, things have changed 
since those days; and that they have changed is due, far 
more than to any other human being, to Miss Nightingale 
herself. It is not to be wondered at that her parents 
should have shuddered at the notion of their daughter 
devoting her life to such an occupation. "It was as if," 
she herself said afterwards, "I had wanted to be a kitchen- 
maid." Yet the want, absurd, impracticable as it was, not 
only remained fixed immovably in her heart, but grew in 
intensity day by day. Her wretchedness deepened into a 
morbid melancholy. Everything about her was vile, and 
she herself, it was clear, to have deserved such misery, was 
even viler than her surroundings. Yes, she had sinned — 
"standing before God's judgment seat." "No one," she 
declared, "has so grieved the Holy Spirit"; of that she was 
quite certain. It was in vain that she prayed to be de- 
livered from vanity and hypocrisy, and she could not bear 
to smile or to be gay, "because she hated God to hear her 
laugh, as if she had not repented of her sin." 

A weaker spirit would have been overwhelmed by the 


load of such distresses — would have yielded or snapped. 
But this extraordinary young woman held firm, and fought 
her way to victory. With an amazing persistency, during 
the eight years that followed her rebuff over Salisbury 
Hospital, she struggled and work and planned. While 
superficially she was carrying on the life of a brilliant girl 
in high society, while internally she was a prey to the 
tortures of regret and of remorse, she yet possessed the 
energy to collect the knowledge and to undergo the ex- 
perience which alone could enable her to do what she had 
determined she would do in the end. In secret she de- 
voured the reports of medical commissions, the pamphlets 
of sanitary authorities, the histories of hospitals and homes. 
She spent the intervals of the London season in ragged 
schools and workhouses. When she went abroad with 
her family, she used her spare time so well that there was 
hardly a great hospital in Europe with which she was not 
acquainted, hardly a great city whose slums she had not 
passed through. She managed to spend some days in a 
convent school in Rome, and some weeks as a "Sceur de 
Charite" in Paris. Then, while her mother and sister 
were taking the waters at Carlsbad, she succeeded in 
slipping off to a nursing institution at Kaiserswerth, where 
she remained for more than three months. This was the 
critical event of her life. The experience which she gained 
as a nurse at Kaiserswerth formed the foundation of all her 
future action and finally fixed her in her career. 

But one other trial awaited her. The allurements of 
the world she had brushed aside with disdain and loathing; 
she had resisted the subtler temptation which, in her 
weariness, had sometimes come upon her, of devoting her 
baffled energies to art or literature; the last ordeal appeared 


in the shape of a desirable young man. Hitherto, her lovers 
had been nothing to her but an added burden and a 

mockery; but now . For a moment, she wavered. 

A new feeling swept over her — a feeling which she had 
never known before, which she was never to know again. 
The most powerful and the profoundest of all the instincts 
of humanity laid claim upon her. But it rose before her, 
that instinct, arrayed — how could it be otherwise? — in 
the inevitable habiliments of a Victorian marriage; and 
she had the strength to stamp it underfoot. "I have an 
intellectual nature which requires satisfaction," she noted, 
"and that would find it in him. I have a passional nature 
which requires satisfaction, and that would find it in him. 
I have a moral, an active nature which requires satisfac- 
tion, and that would not find it in his life. Sometimes I 
think that I will satisfy my passional nature at all events. 
. . ." But no, she knew in her heart that it could not be. 
"To be nailed to a continuation and exaggeration of my 
present life ... to put it out of my power ever to be able 
to seize the chance of forming for myself a true and rich 
life" — that would be a suicide. She made her choice, and 
refused what was at least a certain happiness for a visionary 
good which might never come to her at all. And so she 
returned to her old life of waiting and bitterness. "The 
thoughts and feelings that I have now," she wrote, "I can 
remember since I was six years old. A profession, a 
trade, a necessary occupation, something to fill and employ 
all my faculties, I have always felt essential to me, I have 
always longed for. The first thought I can remember, 
and the last, was nursing work; and in the absence of this, 
education work, but more the education of the bad than 
of the young. . . . Everything has been tried, foreign 


travel, kind friends, everything. My God! What is to 
become of me?" A desirable young man? Dust and 
ashes! What was there desirable in such a thing as that? 
"In my thirty-first year," she noted in her diary, *'I see 
nothing desirable but death." 

Three more years passed, and then at last the pressure 
of time told; her family seemed to realise that she was 
old enough and strong enough to have her way; and she 
became the superintendent of a charitable nursing home in 
Harley Street. She had gained her independence, though 
it was in a meagre sphere enough; and her mother was 
still not quite resigned: surely Florence might at least 
spend the summer in the country. At times, indeed, 
among her intimates, Mrs. Nightingale almost wept. 
"We are ducks," she said with tears in her eyes, "who 
have hatched a wild swan." But the poor lady was 
wrong; it was not a swan that they had hatched; it was 
an eagle. 

^ 2, ^ 

Miss Nightingale had been a year in her nursing-home 
in Harley Street, when Fate knocked at the door. The 
Crimean War broke out; the battle of the Alma was 
fought; and the terrible condition of our military hospitals 
at Scutari began to be known in England. It sometimes 
happens that the plans of Providence are a little difficult 
to follow, but on this occasion all was plain; there was a 
perfect co-ordination of events. For years Miss Nightin- 
gale had been getting ready; at last she was prepared — 
experienced, free, mature, yet still young — she was thirty- 
four — desirous to serve, accustomed to command: at that 
precise moment the desperate need of a great nation came, 
and she was there to satisfy it. If the war had fallen a 
few years earlier, she would have lacked the knowledge, 
perhaps even the power, for such a work; a few years 
later and she would, no doubt, have been fixed in the 
routine of some absorbing task, and moreover, she would 
have been growing old. Nor was it only the coincidence 
of Time that was remarkable. It so fell out that Sidney 
Herbert was at the War Office and in the Cabinet; and 
Sidney Herbert was an intimate friend of Miss Nightin- 
gale's, convinced, from personal experience in charitable 
work, of her supreme capacity. After such premises, it 
seems hardly more than a matter of course that her letter, 
in which she offered her services for the East, and Sidney 
Herbert's letter, in which he asked for them, should actually 
have crossed in the post. Thus it all happened, without 



a hitch. The appointment was made, and even Mrs. 
Nightingale, overawed by the magnitude of the venture, 
could only approve. A pair of faithful friends offered 
themselves as personal attendants; thirty-eight nurses were 
collected; and within a week of the crossing of the letters 
Miss Nightingale, amid a great burst of popular enthusiasm, 
left for Constantinople. 

Among the numerous letters which she received on her 
departure was one from Dr. Manning, who at that time 
was working in comparative obscurity as a Catholic priest 
in Bayswater. *'God will keep you," he wrote, "and 
my prayer for you will be that your one object of Wor- 
ship, Pattern of Imitation, and source of consolation 
and strength may be the Sacred Heart of our Divine 

To what extent Dr. Manning's prayer was answered 
must remain a matter of doubt; but this much is certain, 
that, if ever a prayer was needed, it was needed then for 
Florence Nightingale. For dark as had been the picture 
of the state of affairs at Scutari, revealed to the English 
public in the despatches of The Times correspondent and 
in a multitude of private letters, yet the reality turned out 
to be darker still. What had occurred was, in brief, the 
complete break-down of our medical arrangements at the 
seat of war. The origins of this awful failure were com- 
plex and manifold; they stretched back through long years 
of peace and carelessness in England; they could be traced 
through endless ramifications of administrative incapacity 
— from the inherent faults of confused systems to the petty 
bunglings of minor officials, from the inevitable ignorance 
of Cabinet Ministers to the fatal exactitudes of narrow 
routine. In the inquiries which followed it was clearly 


shown that the evil was in reality that worst of all evils — 
one which has been caused by nothing in particular and 
for which no one in particular is to blame. The whole 
organisation of the war machine was incompetent and out 
of date. The old Duke had sat for a generation at the 
Horse Guards repressing innovations with an iron hand. 
There was an extraordinary overlapping of authorities, an 
almost incredible shifting of responsibilities to and fro. 
As for such a notion as the creation and the maintenance 
of a really adequate medical service for the army — in that 
atmosphere of aged chaos, how could it have entered 
anybody's head.^ Before the war, the easy-going officials 
at Westminster were naturally persuaded that all was well 
— or at least as well as could be expected; when some one, 
for instance, actually had the temerity to suggest the forma- 
tion of a corps of army nurses, he was at once laughed 
out of court. When the war had begun, the gallant 
British officers in control of affairs had other things to 
think about than the petty details of medical organisation. 
Who had bothered with such trifles in the Peninsula? 
And surely, on that occasion, we had done pretty well. 
Thus the most obvious precautions were neglected, the 
most necessary preparations put off from day to day. The 
principal medical officer of the army. Dr. Hall, was sum- 
moned from India at a moment's notice, and was unable 
to visit England before taking up his duties at the front. 
And it was not until after the battle of the Alma, when 
we had been at war for many months, that we acquired 
hospital accommodation at Scutari for more than a thou- 
sand men. Errors, follies, and vices on the part of indi- 
viduals there doubtless were; but, in the general reckoning, 
they were of small account — insignificant symptoms of the 


deep disease of the body politic — the enormous calamity 
of administrative collapse. 

Miss Nightingale arrived at Scutari — a suburb of 
Constantinople, on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus — 
on November 4th, 1854; it was ten days after the battle 
of Balaclava, and the day before the battle of Inkerman. 
The organisation of the hospitals, which had already given 
way under the stress of the battle of the Alma, was now 
to be subjected to the further pressure which these two 
desperate and bloody engagements implied. Great de- 
tachments of wounded were already beginning to pour in. 
The men, after receiving such summary treatment as could 
be given them at the smaller hospitals in the Crimea 
itself, were forthwith shipped in batches of two hundred 
across the Black Sea to Scutari. This voyage was in 
normal times one of four days and a half; but the times 
were no longer normal, and now the transit often lasted 
for a fortnight or three weeks. It received, not without 
reason, the name of "the middle passage." Between, and 
sometimes on the decks, the wounded, the sick, and the 
dying were crowded — men who had just undergone the 
amputation of limbs, men in the clutches of fever or of 
frostbite, men in the last stages of dysentery and cholera — 
without beds, sometimes without blankets, often hardly 
clothed. The one or two surgeons on board did what 
they could; but medical stores were lacking, and the only 
form of nursing available was that provided by a handful 
of invalid soldiers, who were usually themselves prostrate 
by the end of the voyage. There was no other food 
beside the ordinary salt rations of ship diet; and even the 
water was sometimes so stored that it was out of reach of 
the weak. For many months, the average of deaths during 


these voyages was 74 in the thousand; the corpses were 
shot out into the waters; and who shall say that they were 
the most unfortunate? At Scutari, the landing-stage, con- 
structed with all the perverseness of Oriental ingenuity, 
could only be approached with great difficulty, and, in 
rough weather, not at all. When it was reached, what 
remained of the men in the ships had first to be disembarked, 
and then conveyed up a steep slope of a quarter of a mile 
to the nearest of the hospitals. The most serious cases 
might be put upon stretchers — for there were far too few 
for all; the rest were carried or dragged up the hill by 
such convalescent soldiers as could be got together, who 
were not too obviously infirm for the work. At last the 
journey was accomplished; slowly, one by one, living or 
dying, the wounded were carried up into the hospital. 
And in the hospital what did they find? 

Lasciate ogni sperania^ vol cJi entrate: the delusive doors 
bore no such inscription; and yet behind them Hell yawned. 
Want, neglect, confusion, misery — in every shape and in 
every degree of intensity — filled the endless corridors and 
the vast apartments of the gigantic barrack-house, which, 
without forethought or preparation, had been hurriedly 
set aside as the chief shelter for the victims of the war. 
The very building itself was radically defective. Huge 
sewers underlay it, and cesspools loaded with filth wafted 
their poison into the upper rooms. The floors were in 
so rotten a condition that many of them could not be 
scrubbed; the walls were thick with dirt; incredible multi- 
tudes of vermin swarmed everywhere. And, enormous 
as the building was, it was yet too small. It contained 
four miles of beds, crushed together so close that there 
was but just room to pass between them. Under such 


conditions, the most elaborate system of ventilation might 
well have been at fault; but here there was no ventilation. 
The stench was indescribable. "I have been well ac- 
quainted,'* said Miss Nightingale, "with the dwellings of 
the worst parts of most of the great cities in Europe, but 
have never been in any atmosphere which I could compare 
with that of the Barrack Hospital at night.' ' The structural 
defects were equalled by the deficiencies in the commonest 
objects of hospital use. There were not enough bed- 
steads; the sheets were of canvas, and so coarse that the 
wounded men recoiled from them, begging to be left in 
their blankets; there was no bedroom furniture of any 
kind, and empty beer-bottles were used for candlesticks. 
There were no basins, no towels, no soap, no brooms, no 
mops, no trays, no plates; there were neither slippers nor 
scissors, neither shoe-brushes nor blacking; there were no 
knives or forks or spoons. The supply of fuel was con- 
stantly deficient. The cooking arrangements were pre- 
posterously inadequate, and the laundry was a farce. As 
for purely medical materials, the tale was no better. 
Stretchers, splints, bandages — all were lacking; and so 
were the most ordinary drugs. 

To replace such wants, to struggle against such diffi- 
culties, there was a handful of men overburdened by the 
strain of ceaseless work, bound down by the traditions of 
official routine, and enfeebled either by old age or inexperi- 
ence or sheer incompetence. They had proved utterly 
unequal to their task. The principal doctor was lost in 
the imbecilities of a senile optimism. The wretched 
official whose business it was to provide for the wants of 
the hospital was tied fast hand and foot by red tape. A 
few of the younger doctors struggled valiantly, but what 


could they do? Unprepared, disorganised, with such 
help only as they could find among the miserable band of 
convalescent soldiers drafted off to tend their sick com- 
rades, they were faced with disease, mutilation, and death 
in all their most appalling forms, crowded multitudinously 
about them in an ever increasing mass. They were like 
men in a shipwreck, fighting, not for safety, but for the 
next moment's bare existence — to gain, by yet another 
frenzied effort, some brief respite from the waters of 

In these surroundings, those who had been long inured 
to scenes of human suffering — surgeons with a world- 
wide knowledge of agonies, soldiers familiar with fields 
of carnage, missionaries with remembrances of famine and 
of plague — yet found a depth of horror which they had 
never known before. There were moments, there were 
places, in the Barrack Hospital at Scutari, where the 
strongest hand was struck with trembling, and the boldest 
eye would turn away its gaze. 

Miss Nightingale came, and she, at any rate, in that 
Inferno, did not abandon hope. For one thing, she 
brought material succour. Before she left London she 
had consulted Dr. Andrew Smith, the head of the Army 
Medical Board, as to whether it would be useful to take 
out stores of any kind to Scutari; and Dr. Andrew Smith 
had told her that "nothing was needed." Even Sidney 
Herbert had given her similar assurances; possibly, owing 
to an oversight, there might have been some delay in the 
delivery of the medical stores, which, he said, had been 
sent out from England "in profusion," but "four days 
would have remedied this.'* She preferred to trust her 
own instincts, and at Marseilles purchased a large quantity 


of miscellaneous provisions, which were of the utmost use 
at Scutari. She came, too, amply provided with money — 
in all, during her stay in the East, about £7000 reached 
her from private sources; and, in addition, she was able 
to avail herself of another valuable means of help. At 
the same time as herself, Mr. Macdonald, of The Times, 
had arrived at Scutari, charged with the duty of ad- 
ministering the large sums of money collected through the 
agency of that newspaper in aid of the sick and wounded; 
and Mr. Macdonald had the sense to see that the best use 
he could make of The Times Fund was to put it at the 
disposal of Miss Nightingale. *'I cannot conceive," wrote 
an eye-witness, "as I now calmly look back on the first 
three weeks after the arrival of the wounded from Inker- 
man, how it could have been possible to have avoided a 
state of things too disastrous to contemplate, had not Miss 
Nightingale been there, with the means placed at her 
disposal by Mr. Macdonald." But the official view was 
different. What! Was the public service to admit, by 
accepting outside charity, that it was unable to discharge 
its own duties without the assistance of private and ir- 
regular benevolence.'^ Never! And accordingly when 
Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, our ambassador at Constantin- 
ople, was asked by Mr. Macdonald to indicate how The 
Times Fund could best be employed, he answered that 
there was indeed one object to which it might very well 
be devoted — the building of an English Protestant Church 
at Pera. 

Mr. Macdonald did not waste further time with Lord 
Stratford, and immediately joined forces with Miss Nightin- 
gale. But, with such a frame of mind in the highest 
quarters, it is easy to imagine the kind of disgust and alarm 


with which the sudden intrusion of a band of amateurs 
and females must have filled the minds of the ordinary 
officer and the ordinary military surgeon. They could 
not understand it; what had women to do with war? 
Honest Colonels relieved their spleen by the cracking of 
heavy jokes about "the Bird'*; while poor Dr. Hall, a 
rough terrier of a man, who had worried his way to the 
top of his profession, was struck speechless with astonish- 
ment, and at last observed that Miss Nightingale's appoint- 
ment was extremely droll. 

Her position was, indeed, an official one, but it was 
hardly the easier for that. In the hospitals it was her duty 
to provide the services of herself and her nurses when they 
were asked for by the doctors, and not until then. At 
first some of the surgeons would have nothing to say to 
her, and, though she was welcomed by others, the majority 
were hostile and suspicious. But gradually she gained 
ground. Her good-will could not be denied, and her 
capacity could not be disregarded. With consummate 
tact, with all the gentleness of supreme strength, she 
managed at last to impose her personality upon the sus- 
ceptible, overwrought, discouraged, and helpless group of 
men in authority who surrounded her. She stood firm; 
she was a rock in the angry ocean; with her alone was 
safety, comfort, life. And so it was that hope dawned at 
Scutari. The reign of chaos and old night began to 
dwindle; order came upon the scene, and common sense, 
and forethought, and decision, radiating out from the little 
room off the great gallery in the Barrack Hospital where, 
day and night, the Lady Superintendent was at her task. 
Progress might be slow, but it was sure. The first sign 
of a great change came with the appearance of some of 


those necessary objects with which the hospitals had been 
unprovided for months. The sick men began to enjoy 
the use of towels and soap, knives and forks, combs and 
tooth-brushes. Dr. Hall might snort when he heard of 
it, asking, with a growl, what a soldier wanted with a 
tooth-brush; but the good work went on. Eventually 
the whole business of purveying to the hospitals was, in 
effect, carried out by Miss Nightingale. She alone, it 
seemed, whatever the contingency, knew where to lay her 
hands on what was wanted; she alone could dispense her 
stores with readiness; above all she alone possessed the 
art of circumventing the pernicious influences of official 
etiquette. This was her greatest enemy, and sometimes 
even she was baffled by it. On one occasion 27,000 
shirts, sent out at her instance by the Home Government, 
arrived, were landed, and were only waiting to be un- 
packed. But the official 'Turveyor" intervened; "he 
could not unpack them," he said, "without a Board." 
Miss Nightingale pleaded in vain; the sick and wounded 
lay half-naked shivering for want of clothing; and three 
weeks elapsed before the Board released the shirts. A 
litde later, however, on a similar occasion. Miss Nightingale 
felt that she could assert her own authority. She ordered 
a Government consignment to be forcibly opened, while 
the miserable "Purveyor" stood by, wringing his hands 
in departmental agony. 

Vast quantities of valuable stores sent from England 
lay, she found, engulfed in the bottomless abyss of the 
Turkish Customs House. Other ship-loads, buried be- 
neath munitions of war destined for Balaclava, passed 
Scutari without a sign, and thus hospital materials were 
sometimes carried to and fro three times over the Black 


Sea, before they reached their destination. The whole 
system was clearly at fault, and Miss Nightingale suggested 
to the home authorities that a Government Store House 
should be instituted at Scutari for the reception and dis- 
tribution of the consignments. Six months after her 
arrival this was done. 

In the meantime she had reorganised the kitchens and 
the laundries in the hospitals. The ill-cooked hunks of 
meat, vilely served at irregular intervals, which had 
hitherto been the only diet for the sick men were replaced 
by punctual meals, well-prepared and appetising, while 
strengthening extra foods — soups and wines and jellies 
("preposterous luxuries," snarled Dr. Hall) — were dis- 
tributed to those who needed them. One thing, however, 
she could not effect. The separation of the bones from the 
meat was no part of official cookery: the rule was that the 
food must be divided into equal portions, and if some of 
the portions were all bone — well, every man must take his 
chance. The rule, perhaps, was not a very good one; but 
there it was. "It would require a new Regulation of the 
Service," she was told, "to bone the meat." As for the 
washing arrangements, they were revolutionised. Up to 
the time of Miss Nightingale's arrival the number of shirts 
the authorities had succeeded in washing was seven. The 
hospital bedding, she found, was "washed" in cold water. 
She took a Turkish house, had boilers installed, and em- 
ployed soldiers' wives to do the laundry work. The 
expenses were defrayed from her own funds and that of 
The Times', and henceforward the sick and wounded had 
the comfort of clean linen. 

Then she turned her attention to their clothing. Owing 
to military exigencies the greater number of the men had 


abandoned their kit; their knapsacks were lost for ever; 
they possessed nothing but what was on their persons, 
and that was usually only fit for speedy destruction. The 
"Purveyor," of course, pointed out that, according to the 
regulations, all soldiers should bring with them into 
hospital an adequate supply of clothing, and he declared 
that it was no business of his to make good their deficiencies. 
Apparently, it was the business of Miss Nightingale. She 
procured socks, boots, and shirts in enormous quantities; 
she had trousers made, she rigged up dressing-gowns. 
"The fact is,'* she told Sidney Herbert, "I am now clothing 
the British Army." 

All at once, word came from the Crimea that a great 
new contingent of sick and wounded might shortly be 
expected. Where were they to go? Every available inch 
in the wards was occupied; the affair was serious and 
pressing, and the authorities stood aghast. There were 
some dilapidated rooms in the Barrack Hospital, unfit for 
human habitation, but Miss Nightingale believed that if 
measures were promptly taken they might be made capable 
of accommodating several hundred beds. One of the 
doctors agreed with her; the rest of the officials were ir- 
resolute: it would be a very expensive job, they said; it 
would involve building; and who could take the responsi- 
bility.'* The proper course was that a representation should 
be made to the Director- General of the Army Medical 
Department in London; then the Director-General would 
apply to the Horse Guards, the Horse Guards would move 
the Ordnance, the Ordnance would lay the matter before 
the Treasury, and, if the Treasury gave its consent, the 
work might be correctly carried through, several months 
after the necessity for it had disappeared. Miss Nightin- 


gale, however, had made up her mind, and she persuaded 
Lord Stratford — or thought she had persuaded him — to 
give his sanction to the required expenditure. A hundred 
and twenty-five workmen were immediately engaged, and 
the work was begun. The workmen struck; whereupon 
Lord Stratford washed his hands of the whole business. 
Miss Nightingale engaged two hundred other workmen on 
her own authority, and paid the bill out of her own re- 
sources. The wards were ready by the required date; 
five hundred sick men were received in them; and all the 
utensils, including knives, forks, spoons, cans, and towels, 
were supplied by Miss Nightingale. 

This remarkable woman was in truth performing the 
function of an administrative chief. How had this come 
about? Was she not in reality merely a nurse? Was it 
not her duty simply to tend the sick? And indeed, was it 
not as a ministering angel, a gentle "lady with a lamp" 
that she actually impressed the minds of her contemporaries? 
No doubt that was so; and yet it is no less certain that, 
as she herself said, the specific business of nursing was 
**the least important of the functions into which she had 
been forced." It was clear that in the state of disorganisa- 
tion into which the hospitals at Scutari had fallen the most 
pressing, the really vital, need was for something more 
than nursing; it was for the necessary elements of civilised 
life — the commonest material objects, the most ordinary 
cleanliness, the rudimentary habits of order and authority. 
**Oh, dear Miss Nightingale," said one of her party as 
they were approaching Constantinople, "when we land, 
let there be no delays, let us get straight to nursing the 
poor fellows!" "The strongest will be wanted at the 
wash-tub," was Miss Nightingale's answer. And it was 


upon the wash-tub, and all that the wash-tub stood for, 
that she expended her greatest energies. Yet to say that 
is perhaps to say too much. For to those who watched 
her at work among the sick, moving day and night from 
bed to bed, with that unflinching courage, with that in- 
defatigable vigilance, it seemed as if the concentrated force 
of an undivided and unparalleled devotion could hardly 
suffice for that portion of her task alone. Wherever, in 
those vast wards, suffering was at its worst and the need 
for help was greatest, there, as if by magic, was Miss 
Nightingale. Her superhuman equanimity would, at the 
moment of some ghasdy operation, nerve the victim to 
endure and almost to hope. Her sympathy would assuage 
the pangs of dying and bring back to those still living 
something of the forgotten charm of life. Over and over 
again her untiring efforts rescued those whom the surgeons 
had abandoned as beyond the possibility of cure. Her 
mere presence brought with it a strange influence. A 
passionate idolatry spread among the men: they kissed her 
shadow as it passed. They did more. "Before she came,'* 
said a soldier, "there was cussin* and swearin', but after 
that it was as 'oly as a church." The most cherished 
privilege of the fighting man was abandoned for the sake 
of Miss Nightingale. In those *' lowest sinks of human 
misery," as she herself put it, she never heard the use of 
one expression "which could distress a gentlewoman." 

She was heroic; and these were the humble tributes paid 
by those of grosser mould to that high quality. Certainly, 
she was heroic. Yet her heroism was not of that simple 
sort so dear to the readers of novels and the compilers of 
hagiologies — the romantic sentimental heroism with which 
mankind loves to invest its chosen darlings: it was made 


of sterner stuff. To the wounded soldier on his couch of 
agony she might well appear in the guise of a gracious 
angel of mercy; but the military surgeons, and the orderlies, 
and her own nurses, and the "Purveyor," and Dr. Hall, 
and even Lord Stratford himself, could tell a different 
story. It was not by gentle sweetness and womanly self- 
abnegation that she had brought order out of chaos in the 
Scutari Hospitals, that, from her own resources, she had 
clothed the British Army, that she had spread her dominion 
over the serried and reluctant powers of the official world; 
it was by strict method, by stern discipline, by rigid atten- 
tion to detail, by ceaseless labour, by the fixed determina- 
tion of an indomitable will. Beneath her cool and calm 
demeanour lurked fierce and passionate fires. As she 
passed through the wards in her plain dress, so quiet, so 
unassuming, she struck the casual observer simply as the 
pattern of a perfect lady; but the keener eye perceived 
something more than that — the serenity of high delibera- 
tion in the scope of the capacious brow, the sign of power 
in the dominating curve of the thin nose, and the traces 
of a harsh and dangerous temper — something peevish, 
something mocking, and yet something precise — in the 
small and delicate mouth. There was humour in the face; 
but the curious watcher might wonder whether it was 
humour of a very pleasant kind; might ask himself, even 
as he heard the laughter and marked the jokes with which 
she cheered the spirits of her patients, what sort of sardonic 
merriment this same lady might not give vent to in the 
privacy of her chamber. As for her voice, it was true of 
it, even more than of her countenance, that it "had that 
in it one must fain call master." Those clear tones were 
in no need of emphasis: "I never heard her raise her voice," 


said one of her companions. Only, when she had spoken, 
it seemed as if nothing could follow but obedience. Once, 
when she had given some direction, a doctor ventured to 
remark that the thing could not be done. "But it must 
be done," said Miss Nightingale. A chance bystander, 
who heards the words, never forgot through all his life 
the irresistible authority of them. And they were spoken 
quietly — very quietly indeed. 

Late at night, when the long miles of beds lay wrapped 
in darkness. Miss Nightingale would sit at work in her 
little room, over her correspondence. It was one of the 
most formidable of all her duties. There were hundreds 
of letters to be written to the friends and relations of 
soldiers; there was the enormous mass of official docu- 
ments to be dealt with; there were her own private letters 
to be answered; and, most important of all, there was the 
composition of her long and confidential reports to Sidney 
Herbert. These were by no means official communica- 
tions. Her soul, pent up all day in the restraint and 
reserve of a vast responsibility, now at last poured itself 
out in these letters with all its natural vehemence, like a 
swollen torrent through an open sluice. Here, at least, 
she did not mince matters. Here she painted in her 
darkest colours the hideous scenes which surrounded her; 
here she tore away remorselessly the last veils still shroud- 
ing the abominable truth. Then she would fill pages with 
recommendations and suggestions, with criticisms of the 
minutest details of organisation, with elaborate calculations 
of contingencies, with exhaustive analyses and statistical 
statements piled up in breathless eagerness one on the top 
of the other. And then her pen, in the virulence of its 
volubility, would rush on to the discussion of individuals. 


to the denunciation of an incompetent surgeon or the 
ridicule of a self-sufficient nurse. Her sarcasm searched 
the ranks of the officials with the deadly and unsparing 
precision of a machine-gun. Her nicknames were terrible. 
She respected no one; Lord Stratford, Lord Raglan, Lady 
Stratford, Dr. Andrew Smith, Dr. Hall, the Commissary- 
General, the Purveyor — she fulminated against them all. 
The intolerable futility of mankind obsessed her like a 
nightmare, and she gnashed her teeth against it. *'I do 
well to be angry,'* was the burden of her cry. How many 
just men were there at Scutari? How many who cared 
at all for the sick, or had done anything for their relief? 
Were there ten? Were there five? Was there even one? 
She could not be sure. 

At one time, during several weeks, her vituperations 
descended upon the head of Sidney Herbert himself. He 
had misinterpreted her wishes, he had traversed her posi- 
tive instructions, and it was not until he had admitted his 
error and apologised in abject terms that he was allowed 
again into favour. While this misunderstanding was at 
its height an aristocratic young gentleman arrived at 
Scutari with a recommendation from the Minister. He 
had come out from England filled with a romantic desire 
to render homage to the angelic heroine of his dreams. 
He had, he said, cast aside his life of ease and luxury; he 
would devote his days and nights to the service of that 
gende lady; he would perform the most menial offices, 
he would "fag" for her, he would be her footman — and 
feel requited by a single smile. A single smile, indeed, he 
had, but it was of an unexpected kind. Miss Nightingale 
at first refused to see him, and then, when she consented, 
believing that he was an emissary sent by Sidney Herbert 


to put her in the wrong over their dispute, she took notes 
of her conversation with him, and insisted on his signing 
them at the end of it. The young gentleman returned to 
England by the next ship. 

This quarrel with Sidney Herbert was, however, an ex- 
ceptional incident. Alike by him, and by Lord Panmure, 
his successor at the War Office, she was firmly supported; 
and the fact that during the whole of her stay at Scutari 
she had the Home Government at her back, was her trump 
card in her dealings with the hospital authorities. Nor 
was it only the Government that was behind her; public 
opinion in England early recognised the high importance 
of her mission, and its enthusiastic appreciation of her 
work soon reached an extraordinary height. The Queen 
herself was deeply moved. She made repeated inquiries 
as to the welfare of Miss Nightingale; she asked to see 
her accounts of the wounded, and made her the inter- 
mediary between the throne and the troops. "Let Mrs. 
Herbert know,'* she wrote to the War Minister, "that I 
wish Miss Nightingale and the ladies would tell these poor 
noble, wounded, and sick men that no one takes a warmer 
interest or feels more for their sufferings or admires their 
courage and heroism more than their Queen. Day and 
night she thinks of her beloved troops. So does the 
Prince. Beg Mrs. Herbert to communicate these my words 
to those ladies, as I know that our sympathy is much valued 
by these noble fellows." The letter was read aloud in 
the wards by the Chaplain. "It is a very feeling letter," 
said the men. 

And so the months passed, and that fell winter which 
had begun with Inkerman and had dragged itself out 
through the long agony of the investment of Sebastopol, 


at last was over. In May, 1855, ^^ter six months of labour, 
Miss Nightingale could look with something like satisfac- 
tion at the condition of the Scutari hospitals. Had they 
done nothing more than survive the terrible strain which 
had been put upon them, it would have been a matter 
for congratulation; but they had done much more than 
that; they had marvellously improved. The confusion 
and the pressure in the wards had come to an end; order 
reigned in them, and cleanliness; the supplies were bounti- 
ful and prompt; important sanitary works had been 
carried out. One simple comparison of figures was enough 
to reveal the extraordinary change: the rate of mortality 
among the cases treated had fallen from 42 per cent to 22 
per thousand. But still the indefatigable lady was not 
satisfied. The main problem had been solved — the physi- 
cal needs of the men had been provided for; their mental 
and spiritual needs remained. She set up and furnished 
reading-rooms and recreation-rooms. She started classes 
and lectures. Officers were amazed to see her treating 
their men as if they were human beings, and assured her 
that she would only end by "spoiling the brutes." But 
that was not Miss Nightingale's opinion, and she was 
justified. The private soldier began to drink less, and even 
— though that seemed impossible — to save his pay. Miss 
Nightingale became a banker for the army, receiving and 
sending home large sums of money every month. At last, 
reluctantly, the Government followed suit, and established 
machinery of its own for the remission of money. Lord 
Panmure, however, remained sceptical; "it will do no 
good," he pronounced; "the British soldier is not a remit- 
ting animal." But, in fact, during the next six months, 
£71,000 was sent home. 


Amid all these activities, Miss Nightingale took up the 
further task of inspecting the hospitals in the Crimea itself. 
The labour was extreme, and the conditions of life were 
almost intolerable. She spent whole days in the saddle, 
or was driven over those bleak and rocky heights in a 
baggage cart. Sometimes she stood for hours in the 
heavily falling snow, and would only reach her hut at 
dead of night after walking for miles through perilous 
ravines. Her powers of resistance seemed incredible, but 
at last they were exhausted. She was attacked by fever, 
and for a moment came very near to death. Yet she 
worked on; if she could not move, she could at least write; 
and write she did until her mind had left her; and after it 
had left her, in what seemed the delirious trance of death 
itself, she still wrote. When, after many weeks, she was 
strong enough to travel, she was implored to return to 
England, but she utterly refused. She would not go back, 
she said, before the last of the soldiers had left Scutari. 

This happy moment had almost arrived, when suddenly 
the smouldering hostilities of the medical authorities burst 
out into a flame. Dr. Hall's labours had been rewarded 
by a K.C.B. — letters which, as Miss Nightingale told 
Sidney Herbert, she could only suppose to mean "Knight 
of the Crimean Burial-grounds" — and the honour had 
turned his head. He was Sir John, and he would be 
thwarted no longer. Disputes had lately arisen between 
Miss Nightingale and some of the nurses in the Crimean 
hospitals. The situation had been embittered by rumours 
of religious dissensions, for, while the Crimean nurses were 
Roman Catholics, many of those at Scutari were suspected 
of a regrettable propensity towards the tenets of Dr. Pusey. 
Miss Nightingale was by no means disturbed by these 


sectarian differences, but any suggestion that her supreme 
authority over all the nurses with the Army was in doubt 
was enough to rouse her to fury; and it appeared that Mrs. 
Bridgeman, the Reverend Mother in the Crimea, had ven- 
tured to call that authority in question. Sir John Hall 
thought that his opportunity had come, and strongly sup- 
ported Mrs. Bridgeman — or, as Miss Nightingale pre- 
ferred to call her, the "Reverend Brickbat." There was 
a violent struggle; Miss Nightingale's rage was terrible. 
Dr. Hall, she declared, was doing his best to "root her 
out of the Crimea." She would bear it no longer; the 
War Office was playing her false; there was only one thing 
to be done — Sidney Herbert must move for the production 
of papers in the House of Commons, so that the public 
might be able to judge between her and her enemies. 
Sidney Herbert with great difficulty calmed her down. 
Orders were immediately despatched putting her supre- 
macy beyond doubt, and the Reverend Brickbat withdrew 
from the scene. Sir John, however, was more tenacious. 
A few weeks later. Miss Nightingale and her nurses visited 
the Crimea for the last time, and the brilliant idea occurred 
to him that he could crush her by a very simple expedient 
— he would starve her into submission; and he actually 
ordered that no rations of any kind should be supplied to 
her. He had already tried this plan with great effect upon 
an unfortunate medical man whose presence in the Crimea 
he had considered an intrusion; but he was now to learn 
that such tricks were thrown away upon Miss Nightingale. 
With extraordinary foresight, she had brought with her a 
great supply of food; she succeeded in otaining more at 
her own expense and by her own exertions; and thus for 
ten days, in that inhospitable country, she was able to feed 


herself and twenty-four nurses. Eventually the military 
authorities intervened in her favour, and Sir John had to 
confess that he was beaten. 

It was not until July, 1856 — four months after the 
Declaration of Peace — that Miss Nightingale left Scutari 
for England. Her reputation was now enormous, and 
the enthusiasm of the public was unbounded. The royal 
approbation was expressed by the gift of a brooch, accom- 
panied by a private letter. "You are, I know, well aware,'* 
wrote Her Majesty, "of the high sense I entertain of the 
Christian devotion which you have displayed during this 
great and bloody war, and I need hardly repeat to you 
how warm my admiration is for your services, which are 
fully equal to those of my dear and brave soldiers, whose 
sufferings you have had the privilege of alleviating in so 
merciful a manner. I am, however, anxious of marking 
my feelings in a manner which I trust will be agreeable 
to you, and therefore send you with this letter a brooch, 
the form and emblems of which commemorate your great 
and blessed work, and which I hope you will wear as a 
mark of the high approbation of your Sovereign!" 

"It will be a very great satisfaction to me," Her Majesty 
added, "to make the acquaintance of one who has set so 
bright an example to our sex." 

The brooch, which was designed by the Prince Consort, 
bore a St. George's cross in red enamel, and the Royal 
cypher surmounted by diamonds. The whole was en- 
circled by the inscription "Blessed are the Merciful." 

The name of Florence Nightingale lives in the memory 
of the world by virtue of the lurid and heroic adventure of 
the Crimea. Had she died — as she nearly did — upon her 
return to England, her reputation would hardly have been 
different; her legend would have come down to us almost 
as we know it to-day — that gentle vision of female virtue 
which first took shape before the adoring eyes of the sick 
soldiers at Scutari. Yet, as a matter of fact, she lived for 
more than half a century after the Crimean War; and during 
the greater part of that long period all the energy and all 
the devotion of her extraordinary nature were working at 
their highest pitch. What she accomplished in those years 
of unknown labour could, indeed, hardly have been more 
glorious than her Crimean triumphs; but it was certainly 
more important. The true history was far stranger even 
than the myth. In Miss Nightingale's own eyes the ad- 
venture of the Crimea was a mere incident — scarcely more 
than a useful stepping-stone in her career. It was the 
fulcrum with which she hoped to move the world; but it 
was only the fulcrum. For more than a generation she 
was to sit in secret, working her lever: and her real life 
began at the very moment when, in the popular imagina- 
tion, it had ended. 

She arrived in England in a shattered state of health. 
The hardships and the ceaseless effort of the last two years 
had undermined her nervous system; her heart was pro- 
nounced to be affected; she suffered constandy from 



fainting-fits and terrible attacks of utter physical prostra- 
tion. The doctors declared that one thing alone would 
save her — a complete and prolonged rest. But that was 
also the one thing with which she would have nothing to 
do. She had never been in the habit of resting; why 
should she begin now.'^ Now, when her opportunity had 
come at last; now, when the iron was hot, and it was time 
to strike? No; she had work to do; and, come what 
might, she would do it. The doctors protested in vain; 
in vain her family lamented and entreated, in vain her 
friends pointed out to her the madness of such a course. 
Madness? Mad — possessed — perhaps she was. A de- 
moniac frenzy had seized upon her. As she lay upon her 
sofa, gasping, she devoured blue-books, dictated letters, 
and, in the intervals of her palpitations, cracked her 
febrile jokes. For months at a stretch she never left her 
bed. For years she was in daily expectation of death. 
But she would not rest. At this rate, the doctors assured 
her, even if she did not die, she would become an invalid 
for life. She could not help that; there was the work to 
be done; and, as for rest, very likely she might rest . . . 
when she had done it. 

Wherever she went, in London or in the country, in 
the hills of Derbyshire, or among the rhododendrons at 
Embley, she was haunted by a ghost. It was the spectre 
of Scutari — the hideous vision of the organisation of a 
military hospital. She would lay that phantom, or she 
would perish. The whole system of the Army Medical 
Department, the education of the Medical Officer, the re- 
gulations of hospital procedure . . . rest^ How could she 
rest while these things were as they were, while, if the 
like necessity were to arise again, the like results would 


follow? And, even in peace and at home, what was the 
sanitary condition of the Army? The mortality in the 
barracks was, she found, nearly double the mortality in 
civil life. "You might as well take iioo men every year 
out upon Salisbury Plain and shoot them," she said. After 
inspecting the hospitals at Chatham, she smiled grimly. 
"Yes, this is one more symptom of the system which, in 
the Crimea, put to death 16,000 men." Scutari had given 
her knowledge; and it had given her power too; her 
enormous reputation was at her back — an incalculable 
force. Other work, other duties, might lie before her; 
but the most urgent, the most obvious, of all was to look 
to the health of the Army. 

One of her very first steps was to take advantage of 
the invitation which Queen Victoria had sent her to the 
Crimea, together with the commemorative brooch. Within 
a few weeks of her return she visited Balmoral, and had 
several interviews with both the Queen and the Prince 
Consort. "She put before us," wrote the Prince in his 
diary, "all the defects of our present military hospital 
system, and the reforms that are needed." She related 
"the whole story" of her experiences in the East; and, in 
addition, she managed to have some long and confidential 
talks with His Royal Highness on metaphysics and religion. 
The impression which she created was excellent. "Sie 
gefallt uns sehr," noted the Prince, "ist sehr bescheiden." 
Her Majesty's comment was different — "Such a head! I 
wish we had her at the War Office." 

But Miss Nightingale was not at the War Office, and 
for a very simple reason: she was a woman. Lord Pan- 
mure, however, was (though indeed the reason for that 
was not quite so simple); and it was upon Lord Panmure 


that the issue of Miss Nightingale's efforts for reform must 
primarily depend. That burly Scottish nobleman had not, 
in spite of his most earnest endeavours, had a very easy 
time of it as Secretary of State for War. He had come 
into office in the middle of the Sebastopol campaign, and 
had felt himself very well fitted for the position, since he 
had acquired in former days an inside knowledge of the 
Army — as a Captain of Hussars. It was this inside know- 
ledge which had enabled him to inform Miss Nightingale 
with such authority that "the British soldier is not a 
remitting animal." And perhaps it was this same con- 
sciousness of a command of his subject which had impelled 
him to write a despatch to Lord Raglan, blandly informing 
the Commander-in-Chief in the Field just how he was 
neglecting his duties, and pointing out to him that if he 
would only try he really might do a little better next time. 
Lord Raglan's reply, calculated as it was to make its 
recipient sink into the earth, did not quite have that effect 
upon Lord Panmure, who, whatever might have been his 
faults, had never been accused of being supersensitive. 
However, he allowed the matter to drop; and a little later 
Lord Raglan died — worn out, some people said, by work 
and anxiety. He was succeeded by an excellent red-nosed 
old gentleman. General Simpson, whom nobody has ever 
heard of, and who took Sebastopol. But Lord Panmure's 
relations with him were hardly more satisfactory than his 
relations with Lord Raglan; for, while Lord Raglan had 
been too independent, poor General Simpson erred in the 
opposite direction, perpetually asked advice, suffered from 
lumbago, doubted, his nose growing daily redder and 
redder, whether he was fit for his post, and, by alternate 
mails, sent in and withdrew his resignation. Then, too, 


both the General and the Minister suffered acutely from 
that distressingly useful new invention, the electric tele- 
graph. On one occasion General Simpson felt obliged 
actually to expostulate. "I think, my Lord," he wrote, 
"that some telegraphic messages reach us that cannot be 
sent under due authority, and are perhaps unknown to you, 
although under the protection of your Lordship's name. 
For instance, I was called up last night, a dragoon having 
come express with a telegraphic message in these words, 
'Lord Panmure to General Simpson — Captain Jarvis has 
been bitten by a centipede. How is he now?' " General 
Simpson might have put up with this, though to be sure 
it did seem "rather too trifling an affair to call for a 
dragoon to ride a couple of miles in the dark that he may 
knock up the Commander of the Army out of the very 
small allowance of sleep permitted him"; but what was 
really more than he could bear was to find "upon sending 
in the morning another mounted dragoon to inquire after 
Captain Jarvis, four miles off, that he never has been 
bitten at all, but has had a boil, from which he is fast 
recovering." But Lord Panmure had troubles of his own. 
His favourite nephew. Captain Dowbiggin, was at the front, 
and to one of his telegrams to the Commander-in-Chief 
the Minister had taken occasion to append the following 
carefully qualified sentence — "I recommend Dowbiggin 
to your notice, should you have a vacancy, and if he is fit." 
Unfortunately, in those early days, it was left to the discre- 
tion of the telegraphist to compress the messages which 
passed through his hands; so that the result was that Lord 
Panmure's delicate appeal reached its destination in the 
laconic form of "Look after Dowb." The Headquarters 
Staff were at first extremely puzzled; they were at last 


extremely amused. The story spread; and "Look after 
Dowb" remained for many years the familiar formula for 
describing official hints in favour of deserving nephews. 

And now that all this was over, now that Sebastopol 
had been, somehow or another, taken, now that peace was, 
somehow or another, made, now that the troubles of office 
might surely be expected to be at an end at last — here 
was Miss Nightingale breaking in upon the scene, with 
her talk about the state of the hospitals and the necessity 
for sanitary reform. It was most irksome; and Lord Pan- 
mure almost began to wish that he was engaged upon 
some more congenial occupation — discussing, perhaps, the 
constitution of the Free Church of Scodand — a question 
in which he was profoundly interested. But no; duty was 
paramount; and he set himself, with a sigh of resignation, 
to the task of doing as little of it as he possibly could. 

"The Bison" his friends called him; and the name fitted 
both his physical demeanour and his habit of mind. That 
large low head seemed to have been created for butting 
rather than for anything else. There he stood, four- 
square and menacing, in the doorway of reform; and it 
remained to be seen whether the bulky mass, upon whose 
solid hide even the barbed arrows of Lord Raglan's scorn 
had made no mark, would prove amenable to the pressure 
of Miss Nightingale. Nor was he alone in the doorway. 
There loomed behind him the whole phalanx of professional 
conservatism, the stubborn supporters of the out-of-date, 
the worshippers and the victims of War Office routine. 
Among these it was only natural that Dr. Andrew Smith, 
the head of the Army Medical Department, should have 
been pre-eminent — Dr. Andrew Smith, who had assured 
Miss Nightingale before she left England that "nothing 


was wanted at Scutari." Such were her opponents; but 
she too was not without allies. She had gained the ear 
of Royalty — which was something; at any moment that 
she pleased she could gain the ear of the public — which 
was a great deal. She had a host of admirers and friends; 
and — to say nothing of her personal qualities — her know- 
ledge, her tenacity, her tact — she possessed, too, one ad- 
vantage which then, far more even than now, carried an 
immense weight — she belonged to the highest circle of 
society. She moved naturally among Peers and Cabinet 
Ministers — she was one of their own set; and in those days 
their set was a very narrow one. What kind of attention 
would such persons have paid to some middle-class woman 
with whom they were not acquainted, who possessed 
great experience of army nursing and had decided views 
upon hospital reform? They would have politely ignored 
her; but it was impossible to ignore Flo Nightingale. 
When she spoke, they were obliged to listen; and, when 
they had once begun to do that — what might not follow.^ 
She knew her power, and she used it. She supported her 
weightiest minutes with familiar witty little notes. The 
Bison began to look grave. It might be difficult — it might 
be damned difficult — to put down one*s head against the 
white hand of a lady. 

Of Miss Nightingale's friends, the most important was 
Sidney Herbert. He was a man upon whom the good 
fairies seemed to have showered, as he lay in his cradle, 
all their most enviable goods. Well born, handsome, rich, 
the master of Wilton — one of those great country-houses, 
clothed with the glamour of a historic past, which are the 
peculiar glory of England — he possessed, besides all these 
advantages, so charming, so lively, so gentle a disposition 


that no one who had once come near him could ever be 
his enemy. He was, in fact, a man of whom it was diffi- 
cult not to say that he was a perfect English gentleman. 
For his virtues were equal even to his good fortune. He 
was religious — deeply religious: **I am more and more 
convinced every day," he wrote, when he had been for 
some years a Cabinet Minister, "that in politics, as in 
everything else, nothing can be right which is not in ac- 
cordance with the spirit of the Gospel." No one was more 
unselfish; he was charitable and benevolent to a remark- 
able degree, and he devoted the whole of his life with 
an unwavering conscientiousness to the public service. 
With such a character, with such opportunities, what high 
hopes must have danced before him, what radiant visions 
of accomplished duties, of ever-increasing usefulness, of 
beneficent power, of the consciousness of disinterested 
success ! Some of those hopes and visions were, indeed, 
realised; but, in the end, the career of Sidney Herbert 
seemed to show that, with all their generosity, there was 
some gift or other — what was it? — some essential gift — 
which the good fairies had withheld, and that even the 
qualities of a perfect English gentleman may be no safe- 
guard against anguish, humiliation, and defeat. 

That career would certainly have been very different 
if he had never known Miss Nightingale. The alliance 
between them which had begun with her appointment to 
Scutari, which had grown closer and closer while the war 
lasted, developed, after her return, into one of the most 
extraordinary of friendships. It was the friendship of a 
man and a woman intimately bound together by their 
devotion to a public cause; mutual affection, of course, 
played a part in it, but it was an incidental part; the whole 


soul of the relationship was a community of work. Per- 
haps out of England such an intimacy could hardly have 
existed — an intimacy so utterly untinctured not only by 
passion itself but by the suspicion of it. For years Sidney 
Herbert saw Miss Nightingale almost daily, for long hours 
together, corresponding with her incessandy when they 
were apart; and the tongue of scandal was silent; and one 
of the most devoted of her admirers was his wife. But 
what made the connection still more remarkable was the 
way in which the parts that were played in it were divided 
between the two. The man who acts, decides, and 
achieves; the woman who encourages, applauds, and — 
from a distance — inspires: — the combination is common 
enough; but Miss Nightingale was neither an Aspasia nor 
an Egeria. In her case it is almost true to say that the 
roles were reversed; the qualities of pliancy and sympathy 
fell to the man, those of command and initiative to the 
woman. There was one thing only which Miss Nightin- 
gale lacked in her equipment for public life; she had not — 
she never could have — the public power and authority 
which belong to the successful politician. That power 
and authority Sidney Herbert possessed; the fact was 
obvious, and the conclusions no less so: it was through 
die man that the woman must work her will. She took 
hold of him, taught him, shaped him, absorbed him, 
dominated him through and through. He did not resist 
— he did not wish to resist; his natural inclination lay 
along the same path as hers; only that terrific personality 
swept him forward at her own fierce pace and with her 
own relendess stride. Swept him — whereto? Ah! Why 
had he ever known Miss Nighdngale.'^ If Lord Panmure 
was a bison, Sidney Herbert, no doubt, was a stag — a 


comely, gallant creature springing through the forest; but 
the forest is a dangerous place. One has the image of 
those wide eyes fascinated suddenly by something feline, 
something strong; there is a pause; and then the tigress 

has her claws in the quivering haunches; and then ! 

Besides Sidney Herbert, she had other friends who, in 
a more restricted sphere, were hardly less essential to her. 
If, in her condition of bodily collapse, she were to accom- 
plish what she was determined that she should accomplish, 
the attentions and the services of others would be abso- 
lutely indispensable. Helpers and servers she must have; 
and accordingly there was soon formed about her a little 
group of devoted disciples upon whose affections and 
energies she could implicitly rely. Devoted, indeed, these 
disciples were, in no ordinary sense of the term; for cer- 
tainly she was no light task-mistress, and he who set out 
to be of use to Miss Nightingale was apt to find, before 
he had gone very far, that he was in truth being made use 
of in good earnest — to the very limit of his endurance 
and his capacity. Perhaps, even beyond those limits; why 
not.'^ Was she asking of others more than she was giving 
herself? Let them look at her lying there pale and breath- 
less on the couch; could it be said that she spared herself? 
Why, then, should she spare others? And it was not for 
her own sake that she made these claims. For her own 
sake, indeed ! No ! They all knew it ! it was for the sake 
of the work. And so the litde band, bound body and 
soul in that strange servitude, laboured on ungrudgingly. 
Among the most faithful was her "Aunt Mai," her father's 
sister, who from the earliest days had stood beside her, 
who had helped her to escape from the thraldom of family 
life, who had been with her at Scutari, and who now acted 


almost the part of a mother to her, watching over her with 
infinite care in all the movements and uncertainties which 
her state of health involved. Another constant attendant 
was her brother-in-law, Sir Harry Verney, whom she 
found particularly valuable in parliamentary affairs. Arthur 
Clough, the poet, also a connection by marriage, she used 
in other ways. Ever since he had lost his faith at the 
time of the Oxford Movement, Clough had passed his 
life in a condition of considerable uneasiness, which was 
increased rather than diminished by the practice of poetry. 
Unable to decide upon the purpose of an existence whose 
savour had fled together with his belief in the Resurrection, 
his spirits lowered still further by ill-health, and his income 
not all that it should be, he had determined to seek the 
solution of his difficulties in the United States of America. 
But, even there, the solution was not forthcoming; and 
when, a little later, he was offered a post in a government 
department at home, he accepted it, came to live in London, 
and immediately fell under the influence of Miss Nightin- 
gale. Though the purpose of existence might be still 
uncertain and its nature still unsavoury, here, at any rate, 
under the eye of this inspired woman, was something 
real, something earnest: his only doubt was — could he be 
of any use? Certainly he could. There were a great 
number of miscellaneous little jobs which there was no- 
body handy to do. For instance, when Miss Nightingale 
was travelling, there were the rail way- tickets to be taken; 
and there were proof-sheets to be corrected; and then 
there were parcels to be done up in brown paper, and 
carried to the post. Certainly he could be useful. And 
so, upon such occupations as these, Arthur Clough was 
set to work. **This that I see, is not all," he comforted 


himself by reflecting, "and this that I do is but little; 
nevertheless it is good, though there is better than it." 

As time went on, her "Cabinet,** as she called it, grew 
larger. Officials with whom her work brought her into 
touch and who sympathised with her objects, were pressed 
into her service; and old friends of the Crimean days 
gathered round her when they returned to England. 
Among these the most indefatigable was Dr. Sutherland, 
a sanitary expert, who for more than thirty years acted as 
her confidential private secretary, and surrendered to her 
purposes literally the whole of his life. Thus sustained 
and assisted, thus slaved for and adored, she prepared to 
beard the Bison. 

Two facts soon emerged, and all that followed turned 
upon them. It became clear, in the first place, that that 
imposing mass was not immovable, and, in the second, 
that its movement, when it did move, would be exceeding 
slow. The Bison was no match for the Lady. It was in 
vain that he put down his head and planted his feet in the 
earth; he could not withstand her; the white hand forced 
him back. But the process was an extraordinarily gradual 
one. Dr. Andrew Smith and all his War Ofiice phalanx 
stood behind, blocking the way; the poor Bison groaned 
inwardly, and cast a wistful eye towards the happy pastures 
of the Free Church of Scotland; then slowly, with infinite 
reluctance, step by step, he retreated, disputing every inch 
of the ground. 

The first great measure, which, supported as it was by 
the Queen, the Cabinet, and the united opinion of the 
country, it was impossible to resist, was the appointment 
of a Royal Commission to report upon the health of the 
Army. The question of the composition of the Com- 


mission then immediately arose; and it was over this matter 
that the first hand-to-hand encounter between Lord Pan- 
mure and Miss Nightingale took place. They met, and 
Miss Nightingale was victorious; Sidney Herbert was ap- 
pointed Chairman; and, in the end, the only member of 
the Commission opposed to her views was Dr. Andrew 
Smith. During the interview, Miss Nightingale made an 
important discovery: she found that **the Bison was bully- 
able" — the hide was the hide of a Mexican buffalo, but 
the spirit was the spirit of an Alderney calf. And there 
was one thing above all others which the huge creature 
dreaded — an appeal to public opinion. The faintest hint 
of such a terrible eventuality made his heart dissolve within 
him; he would agree to anything — he would cut short his 
grouse-shooting — he would make a speech in the House 
of Lords — he would even overrule Dr. Andrew Smith — 
rather than that. Miss Nightingale held the fearful threat 
in reserve — she would speak out what she knew; she would 
publish the truth to the whole world, and let the whole 
world judge between them. With supreme skill, she kept 
this sword of Damocles poised above the Bison's head, 
and more than once she was actually on the point of really 
dropping it. For his recalcitrancy grew and grew. The 
personnel of the Commission once determined upon, there 
was a struggle, which lasted for six months, over the nature 
of its powers. Was it to be an efficient body, armed with 
the right of full inquiry and wide examination, or was it 
to be a polite official contrivance for exonerating Dr. 
Andrew Smith.^ The War Office phalanx closed its ranks, 
and fought tooth and nail; but it was defeated: the Bison 
was bullyable. "Three months from this day," Miss 
Nightingale had written at last, *'I publish my experience 


of the Crimean Campaign, and my suggestions for improve- 
ment, unless there has been a fair and tangible pledge by 
that time for reform." Who could face that? 

And, if the need came, she meant to be as good as her 
word. For she had now determined, whatever might be 
the fate of the Commission, to draw up her own report 
upon the questions at issue. The labour involved was 
enormous; her health was almost desperate: but she did 
not flinch, and after six months of incredible industry she 
had put together and written with her own hand her "Notes 
affecting the Health, Efficiency, and Hospital Administra- 
tion of the British Army." This extraordinary composi- 
tion, filling more than eight hundred closely printed pages, 
laying down vast principles of far-reaching reform, dis- 
cussing the minutest details of a multitude of controversial 
subjects, containing an enormous mass of information of 
the most varied kinds — military, statistical, sanitary, archi- 
tectural — was never given to the public, for the need never 
came; but it formed the basis of the Report of the Royal 
Commission; and it remains to this day the leading 
authority on the medical administration of armies. 

Before it had been completed the struggle over the 
powers of the Commission had been brought to a victorious 
close. Lord Panmure had given way once more; he had 
immediately hurried to the Queen to obtain her consent; 
and only then, when her Majesty's initials had been irre- 
vocably affixed to the fatal document, did he dare to tell 
Dr. Andrew Smith what he had done. The Commission 
met, and another immense load fell upon Miss Nightin- 
gale's shoulders. To-day she would, of course, have been 
one of the Commission herself; but at that time the idea 
of a woman appearing in such a capacity was unheard of; 


and no one even suggested the possibility of Miss Night- 
ingale's doing so. The result was that she was obliged 
to remain behind the scenes throughout, to coach Sidney 
Herbert in private at every important juncture, and to 
convey to him and to her other friends upon the Commis- 
sion the vast funds of her expert knowledge — so essential 
in the examination of witnesses — by means of innumer- 
able consultations, letters, and memoranda. It was even 
doubtful whether the proprieties would admit of her giving 
evidence; and at last, as a compromise, her modesty only 
allowed her to do so in the form of written answers to 
written questions. At length the grand affair was finished. 
The Commission's Report, embodying almost word for 
word die suggestions of Miss Nightingale, was drawn up 
by Sidney Herbert. Only one question remained to be 
answered — would anything, after all, be done? Or would 
the Royal Commission, like so many other Royal Com- 
missions before and since, turn out to have achieved 
nothing but the concoction of a very fat blue-book on a 
very high shelf.'* 

And so the last and the deadliest struggle with the Bison 
began. Six months had been spent in coercing him into 
granting the Commission effective powers; six more months 
were occupied by the work of the Commission; and now 
yet another six were to pass in extorting from him the 
means whereby the recommendations of the Commission 
might be actually carried out. But, in the end, the thing 
was done. Miss Nightingale seemed indeed, during these 
months, to be upon the very brink of death. Accom- 
panied by the faithful Aunt Mai, she moved from place 
to place — to Hampstead, to Highgate, to Derbyshire, to 
Malvern — in what appeared to be a last desperate effort to 


find health somewhere; but she carried that with her which 
made health impossible. Her desire for work could now 
scarcely be distinguished from mania. At one moment 
she was writing a "last letter" to Sidney Herbert; at the 
next she was offering to go out to India to nurse the 
sufferers in the Mutiny. When Dr. Sutherland wrote, 
imploring her to take a holiday, she raved. Rest! — "I 
am lying without my head, without my claws, and you all 
peck at me. It is de rigueur, d' obligation, like the saying 
something to one's hat, when one goes into church, to say 
to me all that has been said to me no times a day during 
the last three months. It is the ohhligato on the violin, 
and the twelve violins all practise it together, like the 
clocks striking 12 o'clock at night all over London, till I 
say like Xavier de Maistre, Assei^je le sais,je ne le sais que 
trop, I am not a penitent; but you are like the R.C. con- 
fessor, who says what is de rigueur. . . ." Her wits began 
to turn, and there was no holding her. She worked like 
a slave in a mine. She began to believe, as she had begun 
to believe at Scutari, that none of her fellow-workers had 
their hearts in the business; if they had, why did they not 
work as she did? She could only see slackness and stupidity 
around her. Dr. Sutherland, of course, was grotesquely 
muddle-headed; and Arthur Clough incurably lazy. Even 
Sidney Herbert ... oh yes, he had simplicity and candour 
and quickness of perception, no doubt; but he was an 
eclectic; and what could one hope for from a man who 
went away to fish in Ireland just when the Bison most 
needed bullying? As for the Bison himself he had fled 
to Scodand, where he remained buried for many months. 
The fate of the vital recommendation in the Commis- 
sion's Report — the appointment of four Sub-Commissions 



charged with the duty of determining upon the details of 
the proposed reforms and of putting them into execution 
— still hung in the balance. The Bison consented to 
everything; and then, on a flying visit to London, with- 
drew his consent and hastily returned to Scotland. Then 
for many weeks all business was suspended; he had gout 
— gout in the hands, so that he could not write. *'His 
gout was always handy," remarked Miss Nightingale. But 
eventually it was clear even to the Bison that the game 
was up, and the inevitable surrender came. 

There was, however, one point in which he triumphed 
over Miss Nightingale. The building of Nedey Hospital 
had been begun, under his orders, before her return to 
England. Soon after her arrival she examined the plans, 
and found that they reproduced all the worst faults of an 
out-of-date and mischievous system of hospital construc- 
tion. She therefore urged that the matter should be re- 
considered, and in the meantime the building stopped. 
But the Bison was obdurate; it would be very expensive, 
and in any case it was too late. Unable to make any 
impression on him, and convinced of the extreme im- 
portance of the question, she determined to appeal to a 
higher authority. Lord Palmerston was Prime Minister; 
she had known him from her childhood; he was a near 
neighbour of her father's in the New Forest. She went 
down to the New Forest, armed with the plans of the 
proposed hospital and all the relevant information, stayed 
the night at Lord Palmerston's house, and convinced him 
of the necessity of rebuilding Netley. *Tt seems to me," 
Lord Palmerston wrote to Lord Panmure, "that at Netley 
all consideration of what would best tend to the comfort 
and recovery of the patients has been sacrificed to the 


vanity of the architect, whose sole object has been to make 
a building which should cut a dash when looked at from 
the Southampton river. . . . Pray, therefore, stop all 
further progress in the work until the matter can be duly 
considered." But the Bison was not to be moved by one 
peremptory letter, even if it was from the Prime Minister. 
He put forth all his powers of procrastination, Lord Pal- 
merston lost interest in the subject, and so the chief military 
hospital in England was triumphantly completed on un- 
sanitary principles, with unventilated rooms, and with all 
the patients' windows facing north-east. 

But now the time had come when the Bison was to 
trouble and to be troubled no more. A vote in the House 
of Commons brought about the fall of Lord Palmerston's 
Government, and Lord Panmure found himself at liberty to 
devote the rest of his life to the Free Church of Scotland. 
After a brief interval, Sidney Herbert became Secretary of 
State for War. Great was the jubilation in the Night- 
ingale Cabinet: the day of achievement had dawned at 
last. The next two and a half years (1859-61) saw the 
introduction of the whole system of reforms for which 
Miss Nightingale had been struggling so fiercely — reforms 
which make Sidney Herbert's tenure of power at the War 
Office an important epoch in the history of the British 
Army. The four Sub-Commissions, firmly established 
under the immediate control of the minister, and urged 
forward by the relendess perseverance of Miss Nightingale, 
set to work with a will. The barracks and the hospitals 
were remodelled; they were properly ventilated and 
warmed and lighted for the first time; they were given a 
water supply which actually supplied water, and kitchens 
where, strange to say, it was possible to cook. Then the 


great question of the Purveyor — that portentous func- 
tionary whose powers and whose lack of powers had 
weighed Hke a nightmare upon Scutari — was taken in 
hand, and new regulations were laid down, accurately 
defining his responsibilities and his duties. One Sub- 
Commission reorganised the medical statistics of the Army. 
Another established — in spite of the last convulsive efforts 
of the Department — an Army Medical School. Finally 
the Army Medical Department itself was completely re- 
organised; an administrative code was drawn up; and the 
great and novel principle was established that it was as 
much a part of the duty of the authorities to look after 
the soldier's health as to look after his sickness. Besides 
this, it was at last officially admitted that he had a moral 
and intellectual side. Coffee-rooms and reading-rooms, 
gymnasiums and workshops were instituted. A new era 
did in truth appear to have begun. Already by 1861 the 
mortality in the Army had decreased by one half since the 
days of the Crimea. It was no wonder that even vaster 
possibilities began now to open out before Miss Nightin- 
gale. One thing was still needed to complete and to 
assure her triumphs. The Army Medical Department was 
indeed reorganised; but the great central machine was still 
untouched. The War Office itself — ! — If she could re- 
mould that nearer to her heart's desire — there indeed 
would be a victory! And until that final act was accom- 
plished, how could she be certain that all the rest of her 
achievements might not, by some capricious turn of 
Fortune's wheel — a change of Ministry, perhaps, replacing 
Sidney Herbert by some puppet of the permanent official 
gang — be swept to limbo in a moment.'* 

Meanwhile, still ravenous for more and yet more work, 


her activities had branched out into new directions. The 
army in India claimed her attention. A Sanitary Com- 
mission, appointed at her suggestion, and working under 
her auspices, did for our troops there what the four Sub- 
Commissions were doing for those at home. At the same 
time, these very years which saw her laying the founda- 
tions of the whole modem system of medical work in the 
army, saw her also beginning to bring her knowledge, her 
influence, and her activity into the service of the country 
at large. Her Notes on Hospitals (1859) revolutionised the 
theory of hospital construction and hospital management. 
She was immediately recognised as the leading expert upon 
all the questions involved; her advice flowed unceasingly 
and in all directions, so that there is no great hospital to-day 
which does not bear upon it the impress of her mind. 
Nor was this all. With the opening of the Nightingale 
Training School for Nurses at St. Thomas's Hospital 
(i860), she became the founder of modern nursing. 

But a terrible crisis was now fast approaching, Sidney 
Herbert had consented to undertake the root and branch 
reform of the War Office. He had sallied forth into that 
tropical jungle of festooned obstructiveness, of intertwisted 
irresponsibilities, of crouching prejudices, of abuses grown 
stiff" and rigid with antiquity, which for so many years to 
come was destined to lure reforming ministers to their 
doom. **The War Office," said Miss Nightingale, "is a 
very slow office, an enormously expensive office, and one 
in which the Minister's intentions can be entirely negatived 
by all his sub-departments, and those of each of the sub- 
departments by every other." It was true; and, of course, 
at the first rumour of a change, the old phalanx of reaction 
was brisding with its accustomed spears. At its head 


stood no longer Dr. Andrew Smith, who, some time since, 

had followed the Bison into outer darkness, but a yet more 
formidable figure, the permanent Under Secretary himself. 
Sir Benjamin Hawes — Ben Hawes the Nightingale cabinet 
irreverently dubbed him — a man remarkable even among 
civil servants for adroitness in baffling inconvenient in- 
quiries, resource in raising false issues, and, in short, a 
consummate command of all the arts of officially sticking 
in the mud. "Our scheme will probably result in Ben 
Hawes's resignation," Miss Nightingale said; *'and that is 
another of its advantages." Ben Hawes himself, however, 
did not quite see it in that light. He set himself to resist 
the wishes of the Minister by every means in his power. 
The struggle was long and desperate; and, as it proceeded, 
it gradually became evident to Miss Nightingale that some- 
thing was the matter with Sidney Herbert. What was it? 
His health, never very strong, was, he said, in danger of 
collapsing under the strain of his work. But after all, 
what is illness, when there is a War Office to be reorganised? 
Then he began to talk of retiring altogether from public 
life. The doctors were consulted, and declared that, above 
all things, what was necessary was rest. Rest ! She grew 
seriously alarmed. Was it possible that, at the last moment, 
the crowning wreath of victory was to be snatched from 
her grasp? She was not to be put aside by doctors; they 
were talking nonsense; the necessary thing was not rest 
but the reform of the War Office; and, besides, she knew 
very well from her own case what one could do even 
when one was on the point of death. She expostulated 
vehemently, passionately; the goal was so near, so very 
near; he could not turn back now! At any rate, he could 
not resist Miss Nightingale. A compromise was arranged. 


Very reluctantly, he exchanged the turmoil of the House 
of Commons for the dignity of the House of Lords, and 
he remained at the War Office. She was delighted. 
"One fight more, the best and the last," she said. 

For several more months the fight did indeed go on. 
But the strain upon him was greater even than she perhaps 
could realise. Besides the intestine war in his office, he 
had to face a constant battle in the Cabinet with Mr. 
Gladstone — a more redoubtable antagonist even than Ben 
Hawes — over the estimates. His health grew worse and 
worse. He was attacked by fainting-fits; and there were 
some days when he could only just keep himself going by 
gulps of brandy. Miss Nightingale spurred him forward 
with her encouragements and her admonitions, her zeal 
and her example. But at last his spirit began to sink as 
well as his body. He could no longer hope; he could no 
longer desire; it was useless, all useless; it was utterly 
impossible. He had failed. The dreadful moment came 
when the truth was forced upon him: he would never be 
able to reform the War Office. But a yet more dreadful 
moment lay behind; he must go to Miss Nightingale and 
tell her that he was a failure, a beaten man. 

"Blessed are the merciful!" What strange ironic pre- 
science had led Prince Albert, in the simplicity of his heart, 
to choose that motto for the Crimean brooch? The words 
hold a double lesson; and, alas ! when she brought herself 
to realise at length what was indeed the fact and what 
there was no helping, it was not in mercy that she turned 
upon her old friend. "Beaten!" she exclaimed. "Can't 
you see that you've simply thrown away the game? And 
with all the winning cards in your hands! And so noble 
a game! Sidney Herbert beaten! And beaten by Ben 


Hawes! It is a worse disgrace . . .** — her full rage burst 
out at last — ". . . a worse disgrace than the hospitals at 

He dragged himself away from her, dragged himself to 
Spa, hoping vainly for a return to health, and then, despair- 
ing, back again to England, to Wilton, to the majestic 
house standing there resplendent in the summer sunshine, 
among the great cedars which had lent their shade to Sir 
Philip Sidney, and all those familiar, darling haunts of 
beauty which he loved, each one of them, "as if they were 
persons"; and at Wilton he died. After having received 
the Eucharist, he had become perfectly calm; then, almost 
unconscious, his lips were seen to be moving. Those 
about him bent down. "Poor Florence ! Poor Florence ! " 
they just caught. "... Our joint work . . . unfinished 
. . . tried to do . . ." and they could hear no more. 

When the onward rush of a powerful spirit sweeps a 
weaker one to its destruction, the commonplaces of the 
moral judgment are better left unmade. If Miss Night- 
ingale had been less ruthless, Sidney Herbert would not 
have perished; but then, she would not have been Miss 
Nightingale. The force that created was the force that 
destroyed. It was her Demon that was responsible. When 
the fatal news reached her, she was overcome by agony. 
In the revulsion of her feelings, she made a worship of 
the dead man's memory; and the facile instrument which 
had broken in her hand she spoke of for ever after as her 
"Master." Then, almost at the same moment, another 
blow fell on her. Arthur Clough, worn out by labours 
very different from those of Sidney Herbert, died too: 
never more would he tie up her parcels. And yet a third 
disaster followed. The faithful Aunt Mai did not, to be 


sure, die; no, she did something almost worse: she left 
Miss Nightingale. She was growing old, and she felt that 
she had closer and more imperative duties with her own 
family. Her niece could hardly forgive her. She poured 
out, in one of her enormous letters, a passionate diatribe 
upon the faithlessness, the lack of sympathy, the stupidity, 
the ineptitude of women. Her doctrines had taken no 
hold among them; she had never known one who had 
appris a apprendre\ she could not even get a woman 
secretary; "they don't know the names of the Cabinet 
Ministers — they don't know which of the Churches has 
Bishops and which not." As for the spirit of self-sacrifice, 
well — Sidney Herbert and Arthur Clough were men, and 
they indeed had shown their devotion; but women — ! 
She would mount three widow's caps "for a sign." The 
first two would be for Clough and for her Master; but the 
third, "the biggest widow's cap of all" — would be for 
Aunt Mai. She did well to be angry; she was deserted in 
her hour of need; and, after all, could she be sure that even 
the male sex was so impeccable? There was Dr. Suther- 
land, bungling as usual. Perhaps even he intended to go 
off, one of these days, too.^ She gave him a look, and he 
shivered in his shoes. No ! — she grinned sardonically; she 
would always have Dr. Sutherland. And then she re- 
flected that there was one thing more that she would 
always have — her work. 

Sidney Herbert's death finally put an end to Miss Night- 
ingale's dream of a reformed War Office. For a moment, 
indeed, in the first agony of her disappointment, she had 
wildly clutched at a straw; she had written to Mr. Glad- 
stone to beg him to take up the burden of Sidney Herbert's 
work. And Mr. Gladstone had replied with a sympathetic 
account of the funeral. 

Succeeding Secretaries of State managed between them 
to undo a good deal of what had been accomplished, but 
they could not undo it all; and for ten years more (1862-72) 
Miss Nightingale remained a potent influence at the War 
Office. After that, her direct connection with the army 
came to an end, and her energies began to turn more and 
more completely towards more general objects. Her work 
upon hospital reform assumed enormous proportions; she 
was able to improve the conditions in infirmaries and 
workhouses; and one of her most remarkable papers fore- 
stalls the recommendations of the Poor Law Commission 
of 1909. Her training school for nurses, with all that it 
involved in initiative, control, responsibility, and combat, 
would have been enough in itself to have absorbed the 
whole efforts of at least two lives of ordinary vigour. And 
at the same time her work in connection with India, which 
had begun with the Sanitary Commission on the Indian 
Army, spread and ramified in a multitude of directions. 
Her tentacles reached the India Office and succeeded in 
establishing a hold even upon those slippery high places. 



For many years it was de rigueur for the newly appointed 
Viceroy, before he left England, to pay a visit to Miss 

After much hesitation, she had settled down in a small 
house in South Street, where she remained for the rest of 
her life. That life was a very long one; the dying woman 
reached her ninety-first year. Her ill-health gradually 
diminished; the crises of extreme danger became less 
frequent, and at last altogether ceased; she remained an 
invalid, but an invalid of a curious character — an invalid 
who was too weak to walk downstairs and who worked far 
harder than most Cabinet Ministers. Her illness, what- 
ever it may have been, was certainly not inconvenient. It 
involved seclusion; and an extraordinary, an unparalleled 
seclusion was, it might almost have been said, the main- 
spring of Miss Nightingale's life. Lying on her sofa in 
the little upper room in South Street, she combined the 
intense vitality of a dominating woman of the world with 
the mysterious and romantic quality of a myth. She was 
a legend in her lifetime, and she knew it. She tasted the 
joys of power, like those Eastern Emperors whose auto- 
cratic rule was based upon invisibility, with the mingled 
satisfactions of obscurity and fame. And she found the 
machinery of illness hardly less effective as a barrier against 
the eyes of men than the ceremonial of a palace. Great 
statesmen and renowned generals were obliged to beg for 
audiences; admiring princesses from foreign countries 
found that they must see her at her own time, or not at 
all; and the ordinary mortal had no hope of ever getting 
beyond the downstairs sitting-room and Dr. Sutherland. 
For that indefatigable disciple did, indeed, never desert 
her. He might be impatient, he might be restless, but he 


remained. His "incurable looseness of thought," for so she 
termed it, continued at her service to the end. Once, it is 
true, he had actually ventured to take a holiday; but he 
was recalled, and he did not repeat the experiment. He 
was wanted downstairs. There he sat, transacting busi- 
ness, answering correspondence, interviewing callers, and 
exchanging innumerable notes with the unseen power 
above. Sometimes word came down that Miss Nightingale 
was just well enough to see one of her visitors. The 
fortunate man was led up, was ushered, trembling, into 
the shaded chamber, and, of course, could never afterwards 
forget the interview. Very rarely, indeed, once or twice 
a year, perhaps, but nobody could be quite certain, in 
deadly secrecy. Miss Nightingale went out for a drive in 
the Park. Unrecognised, the living legend flitted for a 
moment before the common gaze. And the precaution 
was necessary; for there were times when, at some public 
function, the rumour of her presence was spread abroad; 
and ladies, mistaken by the crowd for Miss Nightingale, 
were followed, pressed upon, and vehemently supplicated 
— "Let me touch your shawl," — "Let me stroke your 
arm"; such was the strange adoration in the hearts of the 
people. That vast reserve of force lay there behind her; 
she could use it, if she would. But she preferred never 
to use it. On occasions, she might hint or threaten; she 
might balance the sword of Damocles over the head of 
the Bison; she might, by a word, by a glance, remind some 
refractory minister, some unpersuadable viceroy, sitting in 
audience with her in the little upper room, that she was 
something more than a mere sick woman, that she had only, 
so to speak, to go to the window and wave her handker- 
chief, for . . . dreadful things to follow. But that was 


enough; they understood; the myth was there — obvious, 
portentous, impalpable; and so it remained to the last. 

With statesmen and governors at her beck and call, with 
her hands on a hundred strings, with mighty provinces at 
her feet, with foreign governments agog for her counsel, 
building hospitals, training nurses — she still felt that she 
had not enough to do. She sighed for more worlds to 
conquer — more, and yet more. She looked about her — • 
what was there left? Of course! Philosophy! After 
the world of action, the world of thought. Having set 
right the health of the British Army, she would now do the 
same good service for the religious convictions of man- 
kind. She had long noticed — with regret — the growing 
tendency towards free-thinking among artisans. With 
regret, but not altogether with surprise: the current teach- 
ing of Christianity was sadly to seek; nay, Christianity 
itself was not without its defects. She would rectify these 
errors. She would correct the mistakes of the Churches; 
she would point out just where Christianity was wrong; 
and she would explain to the artisans what the facts of the 
case really were. Before her departure for the Crimea, 
she had begun this work; and now, in the intervals of her 
other labours, she completed it. Her "Suggestions for 
Thought to the Searchers after Truth among the Artisans 
of England'* (i860) unravels, in the course of three portly 
volumes, the difficulties — hitherto, curiously enough, un- 
solved — connected with such matters as Belief in God, the 
Plan of Creation, the Origin of Evil, the Future Life, 
Necessity and Free Will, Law, and the Nature of Morality. 
The Origin of Evil, in particular, held no perplexities for 
Miss Nightingale. **We cannot conceive," she remarks, 
"that Omnipotent Righteousness would find satisfaction in 


solitary existence.''^ This being so, the only question re- 
maining to be asked is, "What beings should we then 
conceive that God would create?" Now, He cannot 
create perfect beings, "since, essentially, perfection is one"; 
if He did so, He would only be adding to Himself. Thus 
the conclusion is obvious: He must create imperfect ones. 
Omnipotent Righteousness, faced by the intolerable impasse 
of a solitary existence, finds itself bound, by the very nature 
of the case, to create the hospitals at Scutari. Whether 
this argument would have satisfied the artisans, was never 
discovered, for only a very few copies of the book were 
printed for private circulation. One copy was sent to Mr. 
Mill, who acknowledged it in an extremely polite letter. 
He felt himself obliged, however, to confess that he had 
not been altogether convinced by Miss Nightingale's proof 
of the existence of God. Miss Nightingale was surprised 
and mortified; she had thought better of Mr. Mill; for 
surely her proof of the existence of God could hardly be 
improved upon. "A law," she had pointed out, "implies 
a lawgiver." Now the Universe is full of laws — the law 
of gravitation, the law of the excluded middle, and many 
others; hence it follows that the Universe has a lawgiver — 
and what would Mr. Mill be satisfied with, if he was not 
satisfied with that.'^ 

Perhaps Mr. Mill might have asked why the argument 
had not been pushed to its logical conclusion. Clearly, if 
we are to trust the analogy of human institutions, we must 
remember that laws are, as a matter of fact, not dispensed 
by lawyers, but passed by Act of Parliament. Miss Night- 
ingale, however, with all her experience of public life, 
never stopped to consider the question whether God might 
not be a Limited Monarchy. 


Yet her conception of God was certainl}^ not orthodox. 
She felt towards Him as she might have fek towards a 
glorified sanitary engineer; and in some of her speculations 
she seems hardly to distinguish between the Deity and the 
Drains. As one turns over these singular pages, one has 
the impression that Miss Nightingale has got the Almighty 
too into her clutches, and that, if He is not careful, she will 
kill Him with overwork. 

Then, suddenly, in the very midst of the ramifying 
generalities of her metaphysical disquisitions there is an 
unexpected turn, and the reader is plunged all at once 
into something particular, something personal, something 
impregnated with intense experience — a virulent invective 
upon the position of women in the upper ranks of society. 
Forgetful alike of her high argument and of the artisans, the 
bitter creature rails through a hundred pages of close print 
at the falsities of family life, the ineptitudes of marriage, 
the emptinesses of convention, in the spirit of an Ibsen or 
a Samuel Butler. Her fierce pen, shaking with intimate 
anger, depicts in biting sentences the fearful fate of an un- 
married girl in a wealthy household. It is a cri du coeur: 
and then, as suddenly, she returns once more to instruct the 
artisans upon the nature of Omnipotent Righteousness. 

Her mind was, indeed, better qualified to dissect the con- 
crete and distasteful fruits of actual life than to construct 
a coherent system of abstract philosophy. In spite of her 
respect for Law, she was never at home with a generalisa- 
tion. Thus, though the great achievement of her life lay 
in the immense impetus which she gave to the scientific 
treatment of sickness, a true comprehension of the scientific 
method itself was alien to her spirit. Like most great men 
of action — perhaps like all — she was simply an empiricist. 


She believed in what she saw, and she acted accordingly; 
beyond that she would not go. She had found in Scutari 
that fresh air and light played an effective part in the pre- 
vention of the maladies with which she had to deal; and 
that was enough for her; she would not inquire further; 
what were the general principles underlying that fact — or 
even whether there were any — she refused to consider. 
Years after the discoveries of Pasteur and Lister, she 
laughed at what she called the "germ-fetish." There was 
no such thing as "infection"; she had never seen it, therefore 
it did not exist. But she had seen the good effects of fresh 
air; therefore there could be no doubt about them; and 
therefore it was essential that the bedrooms of patients 
should be well ventilated. Such was her doctrine; and in 
those days of hermetically sealed windows it was a very 
valuable one. But it was a purely empirical doctrine, and 
thus it led to some unfortunate results. When, for in- 
stance, her influence in India was at its height, she issued 
orders that all hospital windows should be invariably kept 
open. The authorities, who knew what an open window 
in the hot weather meant, protested, but in vain; Miss 
Nightingale was incredulous. She knew nothing of the 
hot weather, but she did know the value of fresh air — from 
personal experience; the authorities were talking nonsense; 
and the windows must be kept open all the year round. 
There was a great outcry from all the doctors in India, 
but she was firm; and for a moment it seemed possible that 
her terrible commands would have to be put into execution. 
Lord Lawrence, however, was Viceroy, and he was able 
to intimate to Miss Nightingale, with sufficient authority, 
that he himself had decided upon the question, and that 
his decision must stand, even against her own. Upon 


that, she gave way, but reluctantly and quite unconvinced; 
she was only puzzled by the unexpected weakness of Lord 
Lawrence. No doubt, if she had lived to-day, and if her 
experience had lain, not among cholera cases at Scutari, 
but among yellow-fever cases in Panama, she would have 
declared fresh air a fetish, and would have maintained to 
her dying day that the only really effective way of dealing 
with disease was by the destruction of mosquitoes. 

Yet her mind, so positive, so realistic, so ultra-practical, 
had its singular revulsions, its mysterious moods of mys- 
ticism and of doubt. At times, lying sleepless in the early 
hours, she fell into long strange agonised meditations, and 
then, seizing a pencil, she would commit to paper the 
confessions of her soul. The morbid longings of her pre- 
Crimean days came over her once more; she filled page 
after page with self-examination, self-criticism, self-sur- 
render. "O Father," she wrote, "I submit, I resign my- 
self, I accept with all my heart this stretching out of Thy 
hand to save me. . . . O how vain it is, the vanity of 
vanities, to live in men's thoughts instead of God's!" 
She was lonely, she was miserable. "Thou knowest that 
through all these horrible twenty years, I have been sup- 
ported by the belief that I was working with Thee who 
wert bringing every one, even our poor nurses, to perfec- 
tion," — and yet, after all, what was the result? Had not 
even she been an unprofitable servant? One night, waking 
suddenly, she saw, in the dim light of the night-lamp, 
tenebrous shapes upon the wall. The past rushed back 
upon her. "Am I she who once stood on that Crimean 
height?" she wildly asked — *' The Lady with a lamp shall 
stand. . . .' The lamp shows me only my utter shipwreck." 

She sought consolation in the writings of the Mystics 



and in a correspondence with Mr. Jowett. For many 
years the Master of BaUiol acted as her spiritual adviser. 
He discussed with her in a series of enormous letters the 
problems of religion and philosophy; he criticised her writ- 
ings on those subjects with the tactful sympathy of a cleric 
who was also a man of the world; and he even ventured 
to attempt at times to instil into her rebellious nature some 
of his own peculiar suavity. *1 sometimes think," he told 
her, "that you ought seriously to consider how your work 
may be carried on, not with less energy, but in a calmer 
spirit. I am not blaming the past. . . . But I want the 
peace of God to setde on the future." He recommended 
her to spend her time no longer in "conflicts with Govern- 
ment offices," and to take up some literary work. He 
urged her to "work out her notion of Divine Perfection," 
in a series of essays for Fraiers Magaiine. She did so; 
and the result was submitted to Mr. Froude, who pro- 
nounced the second essay to be "even more pregnant than 
the first. I cannot tell," he said, "how sanitary, with dis- 
ordered intellects, the effects of such papers will be." Mr. 
Carlyle, indeed, used different language, and some remarks 
of his about a lost lamb bleating on the mountains having 
been unfortunately repeated to Miss Nightingale, all Mr. 
Jowett's suavity was required to keep the peace. In a 
letter of fourteen sheets, he turned her attention from this 
painful topic towards a discussion of Quietism. "I don't 
see why," said the Master of Balliol, "active life might not 
become a sort of passive life too." And then, he added, 
"I sometimes fancy there are possibilities of human char- 
acter much greater than have been realised." She found 
such sentiments helpful, underlining them in blue pencil; 
and, in return, she assisted her friend with a long series of 


elaborate comments upon the Dialogues of Plato, most of 
which he embodied in the second edition of his translation. 
Gradually her interest became more personal; she told him 
never to work again after midnight, and he obeyed her. 
Then she helped him to draw up a special form of daily 
service for the College Chapel, with selections from the 
Psalms under the heads of "God the Lord, God the Judge, 
God the Father, and God the Friend," — though, indeed, 
this project was never realised; for the Bishop of Oxford 
disallowed the alterations, exercising his legal powers, on 
the advice of Sir Travers Twiss. 

Their relations became intimate. "The spirit of the 
twenty-third psalm and the spirit of the nineteenth psalm 
should be united in our lives," Mr. Jowett said. Eventu- 
ally, she asked him to do her a singular favour. Would 
he, knowing what he did of her religious views, come to 
London and administer to her the Holy Sacrament? He 
did not hesitate, and afterwards declared that he would 
always regard the occasion as a solemn event in his life. 
He was devoted to her; though the precise nature of his 
feelings towards her never quite transpired. Her feelings 
towards him were more mixed. At first, he was "that 
great and good man," — "that true saint, Mr. Jowett"; but, 
as time went on, some gall was mingled with the balm; 
the acrimony of her nature asserted itself. She felt that 
she gave more sympathy than she received; she was 
exhausted, she was annoyed, by his conversation. Her 
tongue, one day, could not refrain from shooting out at 
him. "He comes to me, and he talks to me," she said, 
"as if I were some one else," 

At one time she had almost decided to end her life in 
retirement, as a patient at St. Thomas's Hospital. But 
pardy owing to the persuasions of Mr. Jowett, she changed 
her mind; for forty-five years she remained in South Street; 
and in South Street she died. As old age approached, 
though her influence with the official world gradually 
diminished, her activities seemed to remain as intense and 
widespread as before. When hospitals were to be built, 
when schemes of sanitary reform were in agitation, when 
wars broke out, she was still the adviser of all Europe. 
Still, with a characteristic self-assurance, she watched from 
her Mayfair bedroom over the welfare of India. Still, 
with an indefatigable enthusiasm, she pushed forward the 
work, which, perhaps, was nearer to her heart, more com- 
pletely her own, than all the rest — the training of nurses. 
In her moments of deepest depression, when her greatest 
achievements seemed to lose their lustre, she thought of 
her nurses, and was comforted. The ways of God, she 
found, were strange indeed. '*How inefficient I was in the 
Crimea," she noted. '*Yet He has raised up from it 
trained nursing.** 

At other times she was better satisfied. Looking back, 
she was amazed by the enormous change which, since her 
early days, had come over the whole treatment of illness, 
the whole conception of public and domestic health — a 
change in which, she knew, she had played her part. One 
of her Indian admirers, the Aga Khan, came to visit her. 



She expatiated on the marvellous advances she had lived 
to see in the management of hospitals, in drainage, in 
ventilation, in sanitary work of every kind. There was 
a pause; and then, *'Do you think you are improving?" 
asked the Aga Khan. She was a little taken aback, and 
said, "What do you mean by 'improving'?" He replied, 
"Believing more in God." She saw that he had a view of 
God which was different from hers. "A most interesting 
man," she noted after the interview; "but you could never 
teach him sanitation." 

When old age actually came, something curious hap- 
pened. Destiny, having waited very patiently, played a 
queer trick on Miss Nightingale. The benevolence and 
public spirit of that long life had only been equalled by its 
acerbity. Her virtue had dwelt in hardness, and she had 
poured forth her unstinted usefulness with a bitter smile 
upon her lips. And now the sarcastic years brought the 
proud woman her punishment. She was not to die as 
she had lived. The sting was to be taken out of her: she 
was to be made soft; she was to be reduced to compliance 
and complacency. The change came gradually, but at last 
it was unmistakable. The terrible commander who had 
driven Sidney Herbert to his death, to whom Mr. Jowett 
had applied the words of Homer, dfiorov ficfiavXa — raging 
insatiably — now accepted small compliments with grati- 
tude, and indulged in sentimental friendships with young 
girls. The author of "Notes on Nursing" — that classical 
compendium of the besetting sins of the sisterhood, drawn 
up with the detailed acrimony, the vindictive relish, of a 
Swift — now spent long hours in composing sympathetic 
Addresses to Probationers, whom she petted and wept over 
in turn. And, at the same time, there appeared a corre- 


spending alteration in her physical mould. The thin, 
angular woman, with her haughty eye and her acrid mouth, 
had vanished; and in her place was the rounded bulky form 
of a fat old lady, smiling all day long. Then something 
else became visible. The brain which had been steeled 
at Scutari was indeed, literally, growing soft. Senility — 
an ever more and more amiable senility — descended. To- 
wards the end, consciousness itself grew lost in a roseate 
haze, and melted into nothingness. It was just then, three 
years before her death, when she was eighty-seven years 
old (1907) that those in authority bethought them that 
the opportune moment had come for bestowing a public 
honour on Florence Nightingale. She was offered the 
Order of Merit. That Order, whose roll contains, among 
other distinguished names, those of Sir Laurence Alma- 
Tadema and Sir Edward Elgar, is remarkable chiefly for 
the fact that, as its title indicates, it is bestowed because 
its recipient deserves it, and for no other reason. Miss 
Nightingale's representatives accepted the honour, and her 
name, after a lapse of many years, once more appeared in 
the Press. Congratulations from all sides came pouring 
in. There was a universal burst of enthusiasm — a final 
revivification of the ancient myth. Among her other ad- 
mirers, the German Emperor took this opportunity of 
expressing his feelings towards her. "His Majesty," wrote 
the German Ambassador, "having just brought to a close 
a most enjoyable stay in the beautiful neighbourhood of 
your old home near Romsey, has commanded me to 
present you with some flowers as a token of his esteem." 
Then, by Royal command, the Order of Merit was brought 
to South Street, and there was a little ceremony of pre- 
sentation. Sir Douglas Dawson, after a short speech. 


stepped forward, and handed the insignia of the Order to 
Miss Nightingale. Propped up by pillows, she dimly 
recognised that some compliment was being paid her. 
"Too kind — too kind," she murmured; and she was not